Food for Thought

Now Is The Time for Direct Action

On October 20, 2021, published along with the United Kingdom Government’s decarbonisation, net zero, strategy was a research paper called “Net Zero: principles for successful behaviour change initiatives”

The document was commissioned by the Department for Businesses, Energy, and Industrial Strategy and written by the Behavioral Insights Team. Unfortunately, it was only up for a few short hours before it was taken down and downplayed. The reasons provided for the retraction were 1) that it is a research paper, not government policy and 2) they didn’t want to tell people what to do.

The good news is that nothing ever lands on the internet completely unnoticed. Even though the research paper was only briefly available as originally published, a few quick hands copied it and shared it elsewhere.

The document, “Net Zero: principles for successful behaviour change initiatives”  opens with a disclaimer. “Any views expressed within it (this report) are not necessarily the views of the UK government, nor does this work reflect UK government policy.” With that caveat in place, the report recommends a multi-pronged approach to reduce greenhouse gas emissions. Even though it was created for the British government, the recommendations could apply anywhere in the world. It focuses on suggestions for how the government can encourage average citizens to support the effort by advertising, requesting, and incentivizing or rewarding behavior changes. A number of the recommendations relate to food choices.

I am guessing that very few people saw the original report since it was pulled down so quickly. So I will hit the highlights of the guidance related to food. My thought is if we could implement the recommendations ourselves and encourage friends and family to do the same, then we could decrease our individual carbon footprints. If we do that, WE MIGHT POSSIBLY SAVE THE WORLD!

Oh, sorry, my passion for this subject is at play here. Saving the world may be overstating it, but heck, it is worth a try.

Ok… So, here they are (with some added information and suggestions for implementation included.) The recommendations that the UK government authorized these experts to research and write up, but apparently didn’t really want anyone to know:

  1. Take time to learn about the impacts of our food choices. Animal farming, ruminant products, and all meat and dairy production are higher carbon footprint industries. Estimates of animal farming’s contributions to global greenhouse gasses production range from a low 14.5%  to a mid 57% , to a high 87%. Because of this impact, regardless of which number you like, the report suggests a 35% reduction in ruminant meat (including cattle, sheep, deer, and goat) consumption. I would encourage everyone to reduce all animal products by 35% or more. That would be all animal product consumption, not just “ruminants.”
  2. By extension, teach your children and grandchildren about the impact of food choices on human, beyond human, and planetary health. Please encourage them to learn to cook and eat healthy plant-based whole foods. Create meals, snacks, and sack lunches that show you are walking the talk.
  3. Push to get our school districts to decrease the amount of animal products served on campus. Animal proteins can be replaced by delicious dishes featuring beans, lentils, and protein-rich grains and are less environmentally damaging.
  4. Do what you can to decrease food waste. Buy food in appropriate quantities. Prepare and use what you purchase. Teach children only to take what they will eat, while, at the same time, discouraging over-eating.
  5. If you are a kitchen or food service manager, or if you are responsible for planning conferences, meetings or parties, do whatever you can to avoid putting animal products on the menu. Start featuring plant-based foods prominently and be proud of it! Make a statement about the menu being designed to support net-zero greenhouse gas emissions.
  6. Be an informed consumer. Don’t just go along with what advertisers promote as healthy, convenient, or fun. Read the ingredients on food packages.
  7. Learn one new plant-based recipe every week. Build your kitchen skills and your recipe file. Share what you learn. Hey! tThe holidays are coming! (Hint, hint!)
  8. Ask your schools, grocery stores, restaurants, coffee shops, workplace cafeterias, hospitals, etc., to carry more plant-based whole food items.
  9. If you belong to a faith-based organization that serves meals from time to time, ask them to offer more plant-based options.
  10. Support local farmers to decrease the effects of transporting farm products long distances. If you are a farmer or know farmers, see about connecting to local restaurants, schools, and senior centers. Become their source for local plant products like veggies, fruits, and beans.
  11. Learn about local, sustainable sources for produce. Support the farmer’s markets! Go early and often!

Achieving net-zero carbon emissions by 2030 or 2050 will take conscious effort and considerable policy change from governments and corporations. However, so far, our governments and companies have mostly failed to do what needs to be done.

While we could wait for policy changes, that could take more time than we have. The truth is that we can only control our own behavior, anyway. We could have a massive impact if we take on the suggestions above. Won’t you please take direct action where you can? Now is the time!

Contributing Writer: Meryl Fury

Meryl Fury is President and CEO of PBNM.org.  She is a Registered Nurse with a Masters Degree in Nursing.  Professionally, she has specialized in public health and underserved populations. Personally, she is mad about healthy eating. She enjoys everything about whole-life health, especially working with older people who can greatly benefit from the healing power of whole food plant-based eating. Meryl is the founder, and CEO of Balance Forward Health and Wellness, LLC, which focuses on playfully supporting people who want to attain vibrant health over the entire lifespan. You can read more about her on her website at www.balanceforwardhealthandwellness.com.